This is Carolina: Mother-daughter duo turn hardship into happiness with ‘Pink Pineapple’

This Is Carolina: Pink Pineapple Cakes

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Chocolate cake filled with banana buttercream, vanilla cakes stuffed with coconut or wrapped in a thick, creamy layer of chunky Oreo buttercream.

Those are a few of the dozens of combinations of cakes at Pink Pineapple Cakes in Surfside Beach.

It’s a family story, grown on family values. They were able to show off their sugar-skills Monday night on the Food Network in the new show ‘Winner Cake All.’

“My mom has always decorated cakes, she’s super artsy. She does a lot of different things,” Rebecca Kipp, owner of Pink Pineapple Cakes, said.

As soon as you walk into the appointment-only bakery, you’re overwhelmed with the sweet sensation of buttercream icing and sugar.

The brightness of the bakery reflects the characters of the women who run it.

“I’m doing what I love the most. I am cutting, decorating cakes,” Aura Fuenmayor said.

Fuenmayor is the baker and Kipp’s mother. The mother-daughter duo run Pink Pineapple Cakes.

The pair said the Food Network called them last year about being part of the new show ‘Winner Cake All.’ They went to Los Angeles for the auditions.

Out of thousands who showed up, they were chosen to be one of four pairs on an episode.

They flew to Los Angeles for taping in October and said it was the time of their lives. But, Kipp is not the baker, her mother is. Kipp runs the business, so her mom put her through intense ‘baker boot camp’ in the weeks leading up to the competition.

“My mom and I would be here and we would just train. You’d think we were training for a marathon. She’d be like, ‘Mix this, now frost that cake, it’s not level, do it again, scrap it,’” Kipp said.

The duo didn’t win Monday night, but said the experience was a ball and the Food Network has called back to possibly cast them in a different show.

The store opened in 2013, but the women got their start outside of South Carolina.

Fuenmayor and her two daughters are Venezuelan.

Fuenmayor moved her girls to England when they were young and raised them there. That’s also where she pursued her passion for cakes.

“I went to England and went through the culinary degree to learn how to do your chickens and your salsas and stuff, but that wasn’t really my thing. I like the sweet side of it, the cakes and the pastries,” Fuenmayor explained.

She went to a sugar school after to specialize in her chosen craft.

Then the moved the family to Miami. She said she finished her sugar-schooling down there with a four-year degree at an art institute. She interned with a French chef who she compared to Gordon Ramsay. She said her cake-decorating passion grew from watching her grandmother as a girl, and not doing what was expected of her.

“I think being rebellious. I come from a Hispanic family and you’re supposed to be a lawyer, a doctor, an architect, and I tell my dad and he says, ‘Honey we pay the cook to do that.’ So, I went through law school, got my degree, gave it to my father and went to culinary school. So, define rebellious?” Fuenmayor said with laughter.

The women came to South Carolina after a postcard from Georgetown, SC came in the mail. They decided to come up for a few days.

“We’re like OK, we’re not buying anything, we’re just going for the weekend and when we got here after the hustle and bustle of the city and it was hot and we came in the summer but it was the south. It was South Carolina, ya’ll and calm and Piggly Wiggly’s. It felt like the American dream,” Kipps said.

They bought the land and were South Carolinians by the next summer.

Fuenmayor and Kipp’s proudness shines through their business.

Pink Pineapple Cakes didn’t grow from just an idea, it was a dream that at one time seemed unreachable.

“I am a survivor of violence from the home. It was not physical, it was mental and I wanted to get out of it for years and years and years until it came to the point I said, ‘I don’t care if I’m living under a bridge, I want to get out.’ So, I took my stuff in the middle of the night, my friend picked us up. Friends from church let me live in this house in Ocean Lakes Campground,” Fuenmayor explained.

“A couple at our church let us borrow a little beach house in Ocean Lakes, the little trailer ones, not the ones on stilts and the one next to us was hot pink, I’m talking pink. And the kitchen cabinets inside were pink. It was called Pink Pineapple,” Kipps said.

“And the family used to gather there. Grandpa was there, and the kids were there, and I would only look and wish, and that’s what I wanted. That’s what I wanted. That’s what I thought life was going to have for me,” Fuenmayor added.

“We were sitting there in our little trailer drinking tea one day, and she looked at me, I might tear up, and she said, ‘One day we’re going to have joy again. We’re going to have family and we’re going to be able to just… everything will be OK,’” Kipp said.

And it was.

Kipp said the family got back into their own home, and they started baking cakes out of it. They eventually outgrew their home’s kitchen and moved into a storefront in Surfside Beach.

They moved to their current location in 2013. Each year, Kipp said they make more cakes than the last. Their goal is 200 cakes for 2019.

WMBF’s Meredith Helline asked Kipp what ‘Pink Pineapple’ means to them today.

“I think it means the same. It’s just framed in different thinking. Pink Pineapple means family, it means being part of people’s memories, it means assisting the community by hiring people from the community. It’s just a place. It’s joyous, its happy, it’s bubbly and bright,” Kipp said.

These days, the team of women said their biggest hurdles are doing math to figure out how to add to recipes and making sure no cakes are dropped.

They said their next goal is to have a café where people can have coffee and cake.

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